Paul keeps banged-up Hornets in playoff huntApr 8, 2007 - 5:44 AM MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker) -- The New Orleans Hornets are running out of time to catch the Los Angeles Clippers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They didn't lose
Chris Paul scored 18 points to lead four players with 15 or more points as the Hornets kept their hopes alive with a 96-94 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Playing without starting center Tyson Chandler (toe) and shooting guard Desmond Mason (fractured nose, cheek) because of a fractured nose and cheek bone, Paul shot 6-of-12 from the floor, including 3-of-6 from the arc.
The point guard also dished out 10 assists and collected three steals to move New Orleans (36-41) within two games of Los Angeles Clippers (37-38) for the final spot in the West. The Clippers lost to Denver on Saturday.
"Chris (Paul) is a little firecracker," New Orleans center Marc Jackson said. "He brings a lot of energy, a lot of emotion. For him to be out there the rest of the season, helping us out, means a lot."
The Hornets held a 92-85 advantage after Rasual Butler's free throw with 28 seconds remaining, but the Timberwolves cut it to 95-94 with one second remaining when Kevin Garnett hit a rare 3-pointer.
Paul sealed the win with a free throw.
"The win was really significant," New Orleans guard Jannero Pargo said. "We did what we wanted to do, to get at least four of the last five games as wins so we can control our destiny (regarding the playoffs). We are going to keep working and we still have a game coming against the Clippers so we can make up a full game (in the standings)."
Butler added 17 points despite hitting just 3-of-12 3-pointers and David West and Jackson scored 15 points apiece for the Hornets, who shot just 33 percent (30-of-91) from the floor.
"We shot the ball so bad tonight," New Orleans coach Byron Scott said. "I thought we had more opportunities to drive the ball to the basket. We missed free throws and left guys open. So we made it hard on ourselves like we have all year."
Garnett was in danger of failing to reach double figure in scoring for the first time since October 30, 2002, but he hit a jumper with 18 seconds remaining and finished with 13 points on 5-of-14 shooting. Rashad McCants added 17 points to lead Minnesota.
"I only played 30 minutes tonight," Garnett said. "I wasn't into a real groove, but I did get some blocks and some assists, so I was active. But I didn't have my stroke like I usually do, wasn't in a rhythm.
"It's been a frustrating year, but I'm going to continue to fight and do what I'm told. I don't know how we can get our edge back. There has to be some consistency between what we do in the first half and the second half. Consistency has always been our biggest question mark."
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